During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time listening to music, just like most people did. With many popular artists withholding or delaying their releases of new music, I found myself bored with the music I was so accustomed to listening to. So, I did some exploring on various streaming services. Somehow, after wandering down many rabbit holes, I discovered artists I had never even heard of and became addicted to their sound and their lyrics.
These are not mainstream artists, but they should be. So, everyone should take the time to listen to them.
After her response track to “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s, Kallista has risen in popularity in streaming services. Her voice is unique and pretty, able to compete with other mainstream artists. I love her songs on the piano. My favorite track by her is “Insanity.” When I’m trying to relax, sometimes I’ll listen to her song “Since Saturday.” It’s extremely calming.
This Canadian R&B artist has a soothing voice. I discovered him when his track, “North Face,” came up on my Spotify. Don’t get me started on “Little Lies,” which is one of my favorites of his. If you listen to his entire album, Analogue, you will appreciate his work just as much as I do. His vocals come with echoes which increases the feel of emotional vulnerability, earning him a spot among mainstream artists. I love it.
girl in red
Like ODIE, I also stumbled upon girl in red. “summer depression” is what I listen to with the windows rolled down. The lyrics are melancholy and dark, but the sound is upbeat and vibrant, an interesting dichotomy you don’t see often with mainstream artists. One of my favorite songs is “we fell in love in october.” Her songs have a sense of escapism in them, which is perfect if you’re a daydreamer like me.
This Houston rapper is one of my favorites and somebody I personally know. In 2016 he released a track, “Very Strange,” that gives a realistic perspective on what it means to be black and the threats that come with it. The sound is paranoid with this idea of hearing things and seeing “very strange photographs on the wall.” My favorite album of his is titled, “Home.” It draws inspiration from Houston sounds and the vibe is mellow and something to chill to.
When I heard “Snowflakes” by Grapell for the first time, it was a magical moment for me. The lyrics are written so intimately that it puts many mainstream artists to shame. You’re instantly transported to an empty snow-filled street where you and a conflicted lover walk side by side together knowing a goodbye is inevitable. It’s sad and warm at the same time, a combination achieved by so few. Be sure to also check out their song, “Some Places.”
When Taylor Swift, one of the greatest mainstream artists, released a playlist of her favorite songs back in 2018, Carlie Hanson made the cut with her track, “Only One.” I’ve spent some time listening to her since then. Her DestroyDestroyDestroy album that released recently in October is a fun one. “Side Effects” became my favorite the moment I heard the line, “Was the one that wanted no strings, no I’m tying us together.” If you’re looking for something to blare with the windows down, consider “Numb.” It’s a mellow beat with biting lyrics.
Until The Ribbon Breaks
Aside from my favorite mainstream artists, you can catch me listening to “My Love” by Until The Ribbon Breaks. The moment I discovered their self-titled album from 2018, I was hooked. You could describe them as an alternative group, but they’ve got elements of pop and soft rock embedded in many of their tracks. One of my favorites is “Romeo,” which contains haunting lyrics about someone who’d die for love.
I have followed FRENSHIP for a while and I was positive they’d stay as one of the newest mainstream artists after their song “Capsize” featuring Emily Warren made it to the radio. Their popularity has fluctuated, though. I also love that they seem to release songs as trilogies when they put out singles. For example, “LOVE Somebody,” “GOODMORNING, Goodbye,” and “MI Amore” tell stories about love found and lost, with similar cover arts and fonts for their titles. The same concept applies to “Wanted A Name,” “Remind You,” and “Keep You Close.” However, my favorite song, which sounds like something you’d listen to at a campfire in the woods, is “1000 Nights.” It deserves lots of radio time.
If you watch Queer Eye, you’ve probably heard a song by VINCINT for a promo for season 5. There aren’t many queer mainstream artists, but this person should definitely be one. Their voice is impeccable and I always listen to “Be Me” when I need a pick-me-up to feel better. I am anxiously waiting for their debut album, but until then, I am rotating through my favorite singles. This includes a “Please Don’t Fall In Love,” a desperate plea to an ex-lover not to replace them by loving someone else. It’s gut-wrenching. We need more mainstream artists who can actually sing if I’m being honest.
Of course, this list would not be complete without a shout out to my underground artist brother, Josh Hill. “Typo” is a song that deserves to be on the radio, as well as “Blue Moon.” Stories of addiction and heartbreak are recurring themes in his music. He mixes rap with styles of lo-fi, pop, and R&B. It’s the perfect contemporary mix. He writes all of his own music and can be found on streaming services like Spotify. He goes from being mellow and melancholy on “Paranoia” to the aggressive and fire-spitting “Norman Bates.” He has the potentials to become one of the greatest mainstream artists and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
Do you have any favorite underground artists who deserve to be mainstream artists? Leave a comment!
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